Up until 2001, Beck had never figured prominently among my top bands.
I liked songs like Devils Haircut, Where it’s at and Loser whenever they came on the radio but I just found his music too erratic to enjoy on a regular basis.
All of that changed in 2002, however, when he released ‘Sea Change,’ a collection of raw, emotional songs that evoked sadness and melancholy like nothing I’d heard before.
I was living in Bratislava, Slovakia at the time, teaching ESL as a 20-year-old and very much trying to find myself in this big world of ours.
I first heard Sea Change through a friend, who vaunted the merits of the album and convinced me to listen to it despite some initial reservations of mine.
I didn’t like it.
Truth be told, I didn’t really give it a chance.
I moved away from Slovakia in the summer of 2002 and took a job in Aguascalientes, Mexico in August that year.
Having recently met an Australian girl, I decided to move there in December and see what I could make of it.
The bus ride from Aguascalientes to Los Angeles, where I was flying out from, was 44 hours.
I had two CDs with me: Sea Change, and A Perfect Circle’s Thirteenth Step.
It was the perfect opportunity for me to re-visit Sea Change, and to really isolate myself with it for a period of time.
That’s when I completely fell in love with the album, in a most surprising way because I never expected Beck, of all artists, to have that kind of effect on me.
I think it’s partially why I fell so hard for Nine Inch Nails, in the late 90s: Reznor has always laid it out there for all to see, stripping his music and lyrics down by exposing himself and his deepest, darkest feelings to the entire world.
I felt like Beck, who had gone through a dark period of his own, had done the same. The result was absolutely haunting.
I set the album to ‘repeat’ and would fall asleep from time to time, waking up in different songs.
I would dream about being on a deserted island and thinking about my life, what it meant, why I’d ended up there.
Fast-forward to 2009, when I divorced the Australian girl, and fell into a despair of my own.
Had I become an artist that year, I would have wanted to create something similar to Sea Change, which Beck wrote in a very short period of time following a painful break-up.
Sea Change is very much like NIN’s Downward Spiral in the sense that it’s a clear concept album.
Themes of sadness, isolation and loneliness are bookended by songs that clearly draw a linear map of Beck’s feelings at the time: happiness with his girlfriend, followed by pain and suffering, and optimism for a brighter future.
‘Lonesome Tears’ with lyrics like ‘How could this love/Ever changing/Never change the way I feel and ‘Round the bend’ represent rock bottom for Beck, and I’ve always turned to those songs for comfort and solace in tougher times.
But a song like Sunday Sun, the 10th song on Sea Change, is a Beatle-esque tune not unlike ‘Here Comes the Sun’ with lyrics that imply there is light at the end of the tunnel.
There’s no other ending/Sunday sun/Yesterday is ending/Sunday sun
This brings me to Morning Phase, Beck’s latest album and first since 2008.
He describes it as a companion piece to Sea Change, which is why I was very excited to finally listen to it today, after having enjoyed the first two singles that Beck released last month.
Twelve years after Sea Change — a period of time in which Beck released three albums to mixed reviews and had major spinal surgery — it sounds like Beck has released the most cathartic album of his career.
If Sea Change helped him get through a painful break up, Morning Phase indicates he’s finished the hurdle race.
Morning Phase IS the light at the end of the tunnel that Beck has been yearning for, and an album he felt compelled to write in the past few years.
I’m sure it will offer him a vast amount of closure, judging by the amount of brimming optimism from these beautiful songs.
Keywords such as sunlight, dawn, light and morning are found throughout the album.
Just like with Sea Change, Beck proves he’s one of the most talented and influential musicians of his time, with another timeless album that will continue to be relevant for many years to come.
Thank you, Beck.